Airstrike on ISIS stronghold kills 15; 21 die from Baghdad car bombs

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IRAQ — At least 15 people were killed and 31 were wounded in an airstrike in the strategic Iraqi town of Al-Qaim, in Anbar province, on the border with Syria, a witness said Saturday.

The strike hit a market near an ISIS checkpoint in the town, according to the resident who cannot be named for safety reasons. The resident, who went to a local hospital after the strike and saw the wounded, did not know whether there were any ISIS casualties from the strike.

Al Qaim became a stronghold for ISIS, the Sunni Muslim extremist group, after militants took control of the town in June.

U.S. officials in Washington declined comment Saturday when CNN asked whether coalition or U.S. forces carried out the airstrike.

U.S. Central Command said Saturday that coalition aircraft conducted a series of airstrikes Friday evening against what was thought to be a gathering of ISIS leaders near Mosul, Iraq.

Col. Patrick Ryder, director of public affairs for Central Command, said he could not confirm whether ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was among those present. He said the airstrikes destroyed a convoy of 10 armed ISIS trucks.

Car bombs in Baghdad

Elsewhere in Iraq, car bombs hit four areas of Baghdad, including a busy commercial street, killing at least 21 people, police officials said.

No public claims of responsibility were immediately made. But the attacks come after years of sectarian violence in the country, including some recent Baghdad car bombings that were claimed by ISIS.

One of Saturday’s bombs struck the busy al Sinaa commercial street in central Baghdad, killing at least 10 people and injuring 27 others, Baghdad police officials said.

The other bombs hit predominantly Shiite Muslim neighborhoods.

One exploded near an outdoor market in eastern Baghdad’s Sadr City, killing one and injuring seven others, police said.

Two other bombs exploded outside a fuel station in southwestern Baghdad’s al-Amil neighborhood, killing at least seven people and injuring 22 others, according to police.

And a car bomb struck near a restaurant in eastern Baghdad’s al-Ameen neighborhood, killing three people and injuring 15 others.

1,500 more troops to Iraq

On Saturday, Iraq welcomed the U.S.-led coalition decision to provide more support in training and arming the Iraqi armed forces to help fight ISIS, but added “this step is a little late.”

The comment comes a day after the Obama administration announced the deployment of 1,500 more soldiers to Iraq to train Iraqi and Kurdish forces to confront ISIS.

Iraq has allocated four to five training centers and U.S.-led coalition members have started sending trainers, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s office said in a statement.

Meanwhile, al-Abadi’s office added that the arming of Iraq tribes is done exclusively through the Iraqi government, with the supervision of its armed forces.

CNN’s Arwa Damon and Salma Abdelaziz.and journalist Odai Sadik contributed to this report.

By Mohammed Tawfeeq

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